- Weight: 2.09lb/950 Grams
- Weather Sealed: Yes
- Filter Size: 77mm
- Angle of View: 46 Degrees
- Focusing Distance: 1.31 feet/40 centimeters
- Max Aperture: F1.2
- Minimum Aperture: F16
- Image Stabilization: No
- Mount System: Canon RF
- Price: $2,299
- Maximum Magnification: .19x
Table of Contents
Who is the Canon RF 50mm F1.2 for?
According to some lens apologists, fifty millimeters is the human eye equivalent. However, this is wildly debated and undoubtedly not true when accounting for peripheral vision.
This lens, due to its focal length and bright aperture, allow you to photograph about everything. At F1.2, you can achieve a lot of bokeh, and it allows for a lot of light during nighttime photography. (Just make sure to have a neutral density filter if you intend to shoot with F1.2 during the daytime.) Fifty millimeters is also good for street and more everyday photography. The only place it really lacks is reach. (However, if you are reading this review, I highly doubt you are always taking photos of wildlife.)
Optically, the 50mm F1.2 and the L branded lenses for the RF mount are designed for those who demand perfection. Autofocus, sharpness, and features such as superb weather sealing all exist at the cost of a measly $2,300. Without a sliver of a doubt, the 50mm F1.2 is future proof.
What other RF Lenses exist with the 50mm focal length?
If you are looking for a lens mount with plenty of fifty-millimeter, prime lens options, don’t look forwards the RF mount. Instead, focus on alternative such as Fujifilm, which has the 33mm F1.4, 35mm F1.4, XC 35mm F2, and 35mm F2.
There are just two prime lenses with this focal length, the 50mm F1.8 and this one.
Enter Typical Canon Rant: “They don’t make enough budget lenses for the RF mount; etc.” However, Canon must have some research to only offer these expensive options which results in adoption of their competitors. (Spoiler alert: And people are switching, too. There are plenty of places that assume that Canon will be overtaken as #1 in camera volume sales in the coming decade.) I am not going to get into this today, but here are the zoom and prime lenses that cover this focal length.
- Canon 50mm F1.8
The nifty-fifty for the RF mount, the 50mm F1.8 is Canon’s only other 50mm lens with autofocus. Additionally, this lens is only $2,000 cheaper than this 50mm F1.2.
- Canon 28-70mm F2
One-lens-to-rule-them-all. If I had to pick one, and only one lens to travel with, it might be this one. This lens is highly unbalanced on the smaller RF lens bodies. Sure, the lens lacks optical image stabilization, but it’s an F2 zoom.
I think this lens signaled a slight change in Canon’s overarching strategy, where they are willing to take a bit more risk. Obviously, it paid off enough. A couple of years later, they announced the 100-300 F2.8.
- Canon 24-70mm F2.8
Jack of all trades. But is it a master of any? Quite a few portrait photographers use this lens for weddings and such.
- Canon 24-105mm F4
An upgraded version of the kit lens, the 24-105 F4 is the baseline comparison for reviews on this page. It’s firmly a C Student, but it’s usable. If you think you cannot get pro-level photos with this lens, I vehemently disagree. Personally, I’ve met glacier photographers in Iceland that use this lens and an R6.
Dials, Switches, Buttons, and More
The 50mm F1.2 does have a couple of switches and dials that are programmable.
First, you have the autofocus/manual focus switch. This allows you to change without going into the camera settings. Additionally, there is the focusing distance range selector switch. The two options are either the full-range or from .8 meters to infinity.
Regarding dials, there is the manual focus ring. Some people may not appreciate the manual focus ring’s tension, as it is very, very loose.
Between the red ring which denotes the lens is a member of the L glass series and the focusing ring is the control ring. This control ring does click, and the noise may be audible if used during video. (However, when reviewing the owner’s manual, I did read that the 50mm F1.2 can be sent to the Canon Service Center and have the clicking removed. This service does cost money, however.)
Build Quality (Photo of Seal, Longevity of the Buttons, etc.)
I have read in some places that people are frustrated that the 50mm F1.2 is made from plastic instead of metal, but I think it’s reasonable to assume that the weight would double if that was the case.
Despite the build, this lens is solid. I cannot see any major point of failure for weather resistance at either the lens mount, front lens element, or the switches and buttons.
I was able to find a blog post of the disassembly 50mm 1.2 on Lens Rentals’ website, if you want to see the lens’s optical design and engineering.
Does it balance well on Canon R bodies?
There is no question that this lens is big, but I did appreciate the larger grip on the Canon R series cameras. Because of that, I did feel like it balanced well on my Canon RP, which is one of the smallest full-frame bodies. If this was the Canon R50, I would have reservations.
One design choice which I think that helps is the soda-can like design. The lens is evenly balanced from mount to filter thread.
Of every RF lens made so far, the 50mm F1.2 bokeh is the most unique, in my unofficial opinion. While most camera engineers are creating lenses, they typically want the background to fall-off in the subject. However, the RF 50mm F1.2’s bokeh has a swirl-like effect.
This isn’t optically bad or good, but it just depends on your preference. A lot of vintage camera lenses use the swirl bokeh (especially the old, Soviet Helios lenses). However, a prime example (pun intended) of what most lenses in the 2020’s look like in regards to bokeh is the 85mm F1.2.
With an aperture of F1.2 and a full-frame body, the question is not, “How can I get more bokeh?” Rather, “Is this the type of bokeh I want?
Thankfully, there is no onion ring or soap bubble-like effect. We have very clear, distinct blobs that should make everyone happy. However, there is a heavy cat’s eye effect.
To get rid of the cat’s eye, here is the progression
- At F1.2, the cat’s eye is present from the corner to center. It is less severe in the center, however.
- At F1.6, the center has rounded out. However, the corner does still suffer. We start to see the corners rounding out with a somewhat flat-edge.
- F2 tells the same story. Center is rounded out and the corners are *almost there.
- At F2.8, as long as you don’t harshly examine the bokeh balls, you should be fine. However, zooming into 100%, you will notice that the bokeh balls quickly gained a polygonal shape. I have noted the performance of the 50mm F1.2 in the final review below, and it does affect the final score.
The Canon RF 50mm F1.2 does have a slight audible noise with the USM motors. However, the length of noise is highly dependent on the RF camera that you use. Despite the enormous amount of glass (15 elements in 9 groups), the more capable the camera autofocus system is, the faster the motors will go. You will have much better results with the Canon RF 50mm F1.2 combined with the R3 or R8 than the Canon RP or Canon R.
Now, despite this lens being a prime lens, there is a slight shift of the front lens elements when it changes focus. There is no doubt I am confident in the weather sealing of this lens, but I would make sure to place a UV filter or polarizer when near dusty or sandy environments.
50mm F1.2 vs 50mm F1.8 Autofocus
The 50mm F1.2 is much quicker and confident over the 50mm F1.8. However the 50mm F1.8 is quieter. It’s important to note the 50mm F1.8 has the older STM motors. You can read about the full comparison in the 50mm F1.2 vs 50 F1.8 comparison.
To my eye, there was almost no distortion. This makes sense considering the large optical design should help reduce this. Plus, the focal length of 50 mmm is usually not susceptible to major distortion.
For sharpness, I am going to review this lens a bit differently for the sake of time. Yes, it’s sharp. Most people are going to be happy with the results from center to corner, even if it is at F1.2.
It’s a prime, which means the overall image quality is better than most of the zooms. etc. etc. etc.
So, instead I am going to test the image quality as we stop down the lens.
At F8, I thought this lens still performed well. Across the center to the corner, I was content with the image. However, this did change a bit at F11. The corners started to struggle, here, while the center did stay strong. Finally, at F16, we saw the effects of diffraction. It was pretty bad, and it was noticeable in the trees with the leaves. The leaves just looked less sharp than they should have.
There is some vignetting at F1.2 and other apertures such as F1.4-F2. However, the lens profiles in Capture One and Lightroom fix this. I also went through my JPEG files, just to double check. I can confirm that it was fixed in-body.
From zooming in quite extensively, there was a bit of purple and green fringing in the transition areas. It did look like a small amount, however. I don’t know how well this can be seen on a web format. If not, please let me know via e-mail, and I will attempt to re-do via YouTube videos. (Similar to how I now do sharpness reviews.) Thanks!
This lens is far from a macro-specific lens. The minimum focusing distance is forty centimeters, which leads to a .19 x maximum magnification ratio.
Interestingly, the 50mm F1.8 does have a closer focusing distance.
Sunstars are possible with this lens, and we do get the 10-bladed aperture starting to show up around F10 or so. I was not entirely impressed with this, but I don’t intend to use this lens for great sunstars.
There is a bit of ghosting with this lens, as you can see. It comes across as a purple blob, rather than green. So, that’s good as it is not as distracting.
Interestingly, the blob did not change much in size as you stopped up or down the aperture.
Is this lens good at what it is designed for?
With an aperture of F1.2 and a full-frame sensor, this lens can handle about anything you throw at it. I didn’t feel like it would struggle with the 45 and 50 megapixel sensors. Plus, the better camera you purchase, the faster the autofocus will be.
It can be used in low-light or daylight. However, just make sure you use a ND filter or purchase a camera that extends beyond 1/4000 of a second for photographs if you intend to use F1.2 throughout the middle of the day.
Pros of the 50mm F1.2
It’s hard to fault the 50mm F1.2, as the performance varies from good to great in almost every category. However, the most important, according to my photography style, is sharpness, autofocus, and bokeh. Within these three categories, this lens excels. For the foreseeable future, I imagine that this lens will be able to handle anything from twenty megapixels to fifty plus.
Cons of the 50mm F1.2
I know… I know..I know. Price is a major con of the 50mm F1.2, and you will see that I noted this in the final review ratings out of twenty below. The reality for the mid 2020s is that the RF series of lenses is anywhere between 10-20% more expensive than their Sony and Nikon full-frame counterparts.
However, I do expect RF lenses to get cheaper, unlike some people. As time goes on, Canon will continue to make more lenses, and with greater volume comes more used options, which should push the price on the used market down.
Also, one thing I have noticed about the RF lenses is that Canon runs numerous promotions throughout the year, which is the best time to purchase lenses.
- Bokeh Balls (The 85mm F1.2 handles them better)
Some people are pretty harsh on the bokeh balls, and I do believe the 85mm F1.2 does handle bokeh balls better as it contains more aperture blades.
The biggest argument against the bokeh balls is the heavy cat’s eye in the corner at F1.2. Of course, we did see that it rounded out by F2.8 at the expense of introducing more polygonal shapes across the frame. Bokeh balls are a stylistic preference, however. Some people love the Cooke look, others prefer swirly bokeh that the older radioactive lenses offer, and a couple prefer donut bokeh. (It’s weird, but options do exist.)
My Final Rating
From taking the lens out of the case, I could tell that this lens was future proof for the RF mount. So much so, if I had to purchase only one lens for the RF mount, it would probably be the 50mm F1.2. (That’s because I value versatility in daytime/nighttime photography over versatility in the change of focal length.)
After saving up, I intend to purchase the 50mm F1.2 and replace my 50mm F1.8. This might just be one of my favorite lenses of all time. (Unless Canon elects to ever make a RF 24mm F1.4)
- Is this lens fairly priced?
- (Yes) +1
- Can this item be found on the used market for at least 20% off MSRP?
- (Yes) +1
- How does the price compare to the body? (For example: It may not make sense to purchase a $4,000 lens for a camera ecosystem in which the most expensive body only costs $2,000.)
- The Canon R mount has cameras that range from $500 to $5,000+. Although the lens is expensive, this is fair considering the ecosystem.
- Overall pricing Concerns (-1)
- Sony 50mm F1.2 is $1,898, Nikkor Z 50m F1.2 is $2,096, Canon 50mm F1.2 is $2,299
- Looking at these lenses price above, it’s a bit easier to assume that I just knocked off a point as it is the most expensive option. Instead, I looked at the Sony which is about 18% cheaper. Then, the Nikon is 9% cheaper.
- Price/Performance Ratio (+1)
- This lens is expensive, but I think the performance is worth it.
- Color Fringing, Bokeh Balls (-0.5), Sharpness (including center sharpness and center to corner performance), Distortion, Vignetting, Bokeh Transitions
Functionality (5 of 5)
- Is this a niche lens? (No +1)
- How is the autofocus experience? If it is a manual focus lens, what is this experience like? (+1)
- The autofocus experience is excellent. Additionally, the manual focus ring lens is a bit loose, but this is a personal anecdote rather than affecting the overall concerns with this lens.
- Trade-offs (For example, an F4 lens should probably have optical image stabilization.) (+1)
- Is it able to be used for what it’s designed for? Yes (+1)
- Does this lens look good?
- Yes (+1)
- How does the overall build quality feel- EX. materials, paint, does it show fingerprints, etc. ?
- The overall build quality is excellent. (+1)
- If it’s designed to be waterproof, is it?
- Yes (+1)
- Will the lens last over time?
- Yes. As evidenced by the video above, this lens is designed very well. (+1)
- Lens Body/Camera Balance
- It balances well on smaller and larger full-frame options, for which a lens like this is designed for. (+1)
Total: 18.5/20 or about 92.5%